Feb 10, 2021 - Science

Chinese Mars mission is now orbiting the Red Planet

Mars in red seen from orbit in 2003

Mars seen in 2003. Photo: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

China's first homegrown Mars mission has successfully made it into orbit around the Red Planet, state-run media confirms.

Why it matters: China is now the sixth nation or space agency to operate a spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

What's happening: The mission — called Tianwen-1 — is expected to gather data about the red world from orbit. Eventually, the spacecraft will release a rover down to the Martian surface.

  • If that rover is a success, it will make China only the second nation after the U.S. to operate a rover on the world's surface.
  • Tianwen-1's achievement comes one day after the United Arab Emirates' Hope probe made it into Mars orbit.

The big picture: China is a leader in space today. The nation has a human spaceflight program, operates satellites and has plans to build an Earth-orbiting space station in the near future.

What's next: Next week, NASA's Perseverance rover is expected to land on the surface of Mars, bringing up the rear of the parade of Mars missions launched in July and arriving at the planet this month.

Go deeper: The new Mars club

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